One In, One Out: Town’s Summer Transfer Strategy

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A warm welcome to new writer Jonny Leighfield, who reflects on a very busy and successful summer transfer window for Swindon Town…

I must admit that at the time of writing, shortly after the summer transfer window has slammed shut, I’m feeling pretty pleased with the type of players Swindon Town have brought in and the ones we have, shall we say, disposed of. The turnaround had to be based around a ‘one in, one out’ policy in order for Town to stay within budget and you would have thought that we would be stuck with a bunch of kids or lower league rejects just to sustain our football club. But no. Full credit to the board, it was done in such a way that we managed to acquire some extremely talented individuals that we were actually receiving offers for on the 2nd of September even though they had only arrived just weeks before and played a handful of games.

So in total, it was 17 in and 16 out at Swindon HQ. The board started by using our ‘special relationship’ with Spurs to bring in a number of their youth academy products for regular first team football. These players turned out to be pretty handy. The likes of Ryan Mason and Grant Hall being some of the first names on the team sheet on a regular basis already and credit to them for that.

Being able to bring back Massimo Luongo was huge for the fans as it proved to them that even though the club had to tighten its belt in terms of transfers the board were still looking at quality as well as finances and Massimo has bags of quality. The fact that Town have now signed him permanently should hopefully show critiques of Jed and co. that they are fully behind the club; looking to sign talented players such as Massimo and therefore want us to achieve big things in the future. Also Swindon have given players such as Ryan Harley another chance in league one to prove himself was a very mature move by the board who clearly saw he possessed the quality to boss a game at this level, and he has done just that.

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One transfer area that’s impressed is that we’ve brought in a reserve ‘keeper. We needed someone who has enough raw talent and ability to come in and play should we need to give Wes a rest in league or cup games. Tyrrell Belford looks a big guy who could handle himself in such a physical league or against bigger teams, so I look forward to his debut.

Another has been securing key players to sign new deals with Swindon Town. When the news broke that Wes had signed a two year deal I think most of us let out a little squeak of excitement as the best ‘keeper we have had for probably 20 years, and now committed to the cause. Also Darren Ward signing to continue his ever reliability at the back was a massive plus too. Our defence has been crying out for a rock at the back for some time now after it seemed impossible to hold down a place at centre half under previous managers.

The attacking signings have been very exciting and once all are fit and get a good run in the team we should have a strike force to be reckoned with. Tricky wingers such as Tijane and Alex Pritchard have come in who both love to run at players and have the ability to get their heads up and deliver which is great to see. We now have a couple of big hold up guys in the controversial Nile Ranger and big Danny N’Guessan who can actually win a header and bring our classy wingers in to play which is already bringing success in terms of goals and plenty of chances.

Of course there have also been a few high profile departures, most of which I deem necessary or not a huge loss to our football club. Players like Aden Flint who decided it would be perfectly acceptable to move 40 miles away to one of our biggest rivals to “further his career” (because we all know what that means) and Paul Caddis who, if rumours are to be believed, said the facilities at Swindon were poor and we would never achieve anything as a club.

But rumours and title-tattle aside a move for both of these players was best for both parties. Flint would never have been able to fit in to our ball playing centre half mould that Grant Hall looks like making his own and when you have home grown talent like Nathan Thompson at your disposal, who in my opinion is a better all-round player than Paul Caddis, it doesn’t seem like too greater loss.

However there are players that have left, that for me could still have worked under this new regime and I think were a big loss to the club. Players such as Simon Ferry and Joe Devera were the two that I would have loved to have kept. Not only for Ferry’s character but because I think they had genuine ability and like to get the ball down and play. I just hope they can further their careers at Portsmouth and make a name for themselves because I think they deserve it.

Oh yeah, and there’s that Yaser Kasim bloke isn’t there? (You didn’t think I was going to forget him did you?) Potentially the signing of the season already, Town turned down a rumoured quarter of a million pound bid for a player that we got for nothing no less than a couple of months ago. He is big, strong, powerful, has fantastic vision and ultimately the ability to run the game from central midfield. If we can keep hold of this guy, he could turn out to be our biggest asset and could take us places in the long run.

Here’s to a potentially very nervous January…

Follow @JonnyLeighfield

What would you do with Paul Caddis?

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The Swindon Town’s defender has claimed that chairman Jed McCory is blocking a loan move to Millwall or Birmingham, but what would you do with the ex-Celtic man? Alex Cooke asks.

He was once a Swindon’s captain, a crucial part of a championship-winning team and, crucially, TheWashbag’s nomination for player of the season, but now Paul Caddis is unwanted, unplayed and, according to some, overpaid.

But what should the club do with him? Sell him, swap him, play him? What would be best for the team, Caddis himself, and manager Mark Cooper? Tell us which you’d do, and why, in the comment box below.

Send him out on loan
Chairman Jed McCory seems to be against it, but at least it would get Caddis off the bench and a proportion of his wages off the bill. Should Swindon just accept what they can get?

Sell him
So far only Blackpool have been interested in taking Caddis permanently but wages seemed to prove a problem. Should Town lower their fees, or Caddis lower his demands?

Pay him off
Town don’t seem in the business of paying off players any more but is it worth just being rid of a disruptive influence?

Play him
Caddis has proven himself to be a very good football, able to play in the Championship, so why not get something out of him? Even if there is the potential for injury or even putting scouts off with bad performances while he is ‘in the shop window’?

Let him rot
Should Swindon say that Caddis has to just sit and rot in the reserves? Could his wages not be better used elsewhere in the squad? Perhaps on a striker or defensive cover?

What would you do? Any of these, or something else? Tell us below.

Paolo Di Canio: Key Moments and Matches

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Paolo Di Canio, forever a man attracting media attention as a player and that hasn’t stopped as a manager, far from it, as the maverick Italian did not have an average 18 months at Swindon. Benjamin Wills looks back at some of the key moments and matches during his reign. 

It was May 20th 2011 and Swindon confirmed Paolo as manager, like any standard League Two appointment. The club and manager trended on Twitter worldwide for a few minites, a major club sponsor withdrew their funding due to ‘the manager’s fascist politics’ and Paolo claimed Swindon will sign Lionel Messi in the Summer transfer window, you’ve seen nothing yet…

Pre-season ended and Di Canio had signed 15 new players from all corners of the world including Algeria (Mehdi Kerrouche), Namibia (Oliver Risser), a Czech Republic international (Lukas Magera) and four Italians – even a few English players including one Leon Clarke but more on him in a moment. Oh, but there was no arrival of an Argentinian called Lionel.

Swindon kicked off their season with an emphatic 3-0 win over Crewe and went top; easy this management lark isn’t it? Well, maybe not. With Di Canio later admitting he thought this mangerial business was ‘a bit easy’, the result was followed by back-to-back away defeats to Dagenham & Redbridge and Cheltenham, before a home clash against fierce rivals Oxford and Di Canio in the spotlight again.

The day before the game, Di Canio got Oxford riled by saying that ‘star striker’ James Constable is a Swindon fan – ‘He’s a big Swindon fan through and through – the Oxford fans know it.’ The mind games didn’t pay off though with Oxford winning 1-2 with Constable scoring both for the Yellows. An own goal by Paolo on this one. He was quick to cheer his fans up though, on the final whistle he made a gesture that has gone down in Swindon folklore. A point to the sky to suggest Swindon will go up, and a point to the floor suggesting Oxford were staying down, Di Canio one of the few men who can make fans go home smiling after losing a derby. In the end he proved to be right…

Swindon had better luck in a different derby three days later, a 0-1 win vs. Bristol City in the Carling Cup, the first of many teams in higher leagues Swindon would beat under ‘PDC’. The league form was still to be desired though, a fourth loss in a row came in a 2-1 away match vs. Shrewsbury.

Then a return to the Carling Cup, Southampton at home and another loss, 1-3 this time. If only that was the worst piece of news to come out of that night. At full time Leon Clarke had a spat with Fabrizio Piccaretta claiming he had been overworked in training (it’s tough being a footballer). Paolo tried to calm him down which didn’t work and they had a fight in the tunnel and had to be separated. Surprisingly Clarke never featured for Swindon again.

Swindon won their next 2 games before travelling to Crawley but after Steve Evans’ comments calling the club a ‘circus’ under Di Canio there was more than 3 points at stake for Swindon, well at full time it was Evans who looked like a clown as Swindon won 0-3.

On the 14th October, Paolo Di Canio completed his most important transfer as a manager so far in the shape of unknown Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham on loan from Crystal Palace. He’d never played for the Selhurst Park outfit but had for Conference South sides Bromley and Histon. His debut came in a 0-2 win over Accrington, Swindon’s first clean sheet in three and he wouldn’t concede a goal for six games. Wes didn’t hide his joy at joining Swindon, tweeting ‘All done, officially signed for Swindon Town FC on loan until January… Di Canio is ledge!’

Paolo’s next memorable moment would come in the FA Cup 1st round match against Huddersfield, a team on a 42 match unbeaten run. With no Jordan Rhodes in the away squad – due to a Scotland call up – Huddersfield struggled and got thrashed 4-1, Di Canio recently called this game his favourite and it’s understandable why given the manner of the comeback.

The acquisition of Foderingham was certainly a turning point in Swindon’s season but not as much as the New Year’s Eve match against Northampton. After going 1-0 down, Swindon hit back with an Alan Connell equaliser before Oliver Risser was sent off. With ten men, Swindon pushed on and the 3rd minute of injury time, Alan McCormack picked up the ball just inside the Northampton half, ran with it a bit, played a one-two with Rafa De Vita before lashing the ball into the goal. Cue Swindon delirium, all the players celebrating with the away fans and even Paolo himself joining in and jumping on McCormack to show his gratitude with a Mourinho-esqe run. Following that result, Swindon won ten League Two games in a row and 12 from 14 in all competitions.

One of those games in that incredible run was the 2-1 giant killing of Premier League side Wigan in the FA Cup.  Swindon completely outplayed Wigan with the away side only having one shot on target, a rebounded penalty which they scored. Paolo dedicated the win to his father who died in October with a cry of ‘Grazie Papa’ at the final whistle. Di Canio then suggested that a plaque should be made in honour of this historic victory – no sign of this yet. Also in this run Swindon booked themselves a trip to Wembley with a 2-1 aggregate win over Barnet in the JPT South final. It was a forgettable occasion, Chesterfield won 2-0 and Swindon never really looked like winning.

Di Canio has fallen foul of the officials a few times, none more so than against Macclesfield in January. Swindon won 1-0 but one incident where Matt Hamshaw pushed Aden Flint angered Paolo. He argued with the officials and was sent to the stands. In his post-match press conference Di Canio claimed ‘you can send me off every week, we will win this league anyway’ which Swindon did.

In April, Swindon all but confirmed their promotion to League One with a 1-0 win over Plymouth, Di Canio didn’t come back onto the pitch for his annual post-match scarf raising as his Mother had died during the week. He flew out to Italy the day before she died, say goodbye to his Mum then flew back home 2 days later, showing his unbelievable commitment to the club. Swindon were crowned champions with a 5-0 win over Port Vale with League Two player of the year Ritchie opening the scoring.

Paolo’s second preseason again wasn’t your average. The focal point of the summer was Di Canio’s falling out with club captain and fan favourite Paul Caddis, criticising his work rate in training, resulting in the Scot joining Birmingham in a swap loan deal with Adam Rooney. Ever busy in the transfer market, the Italian signed a further eleven players and selling another 12 including top scorer Alan Connell to Bradford, with a significant number of his original signings no longer wearing the red and white.

Swindon started this season well with a 3-0 demolishing of Championship side Brighton in the League Cup. Two league wins in three followed before an incredible 3-4 win at Stoke City in the Cup. Swindon would go onto beat Burnley 3-1 in the next round and then crash out to Aston Villa 2-3 in October. Nonetheless, Paolo’s reign was providing some of the finest cup runs for many years.

Back in the league and Town were having an indifferent start, with a match at Preston living long in the memory. Swindon lost 4-1 after going down 2-0 inside 10 minutes, Di Canio wasn’t happy and substituted Goalkeeper Foderingham after 21 minutes, much to the young ‘keeper’s frustration; kicking a bottle in frustration and arguing with PDC before storming down the tunnel. Paolo demanded an apology from Wes and if he didn’t get one, Foderingham would be sold. Wes apologised and Paolo had again asserted his authority.

In late December, Swindon faced surprise promotion fodder Tranmere at the County Ground but only one team looked like a side in form, Swindon ran out 5-0 winners. The following week at home to penniless Portsmouth Swindon won 5-0 again, the following game against Carlisle wasn’t 5-0 however, Swindon could only get a 4-0 win in that one.

Swindon’s finances have made headlines a lot this season. In October, Swindon were placed under a transfer embargo for breaking the limit on wages and transfer fees. Days later Jeremy Wray left as chairman and was replaced by Sir William Patey. While the embargo was lifted a month later and new loan backups arrived, it soon transpired there would be no money for Paolo to spend in January. Paolo responded in his usual eccentric fashion by claiming he will use £30,000 of his own money to keep loanees Danny Hollands and Chris Martin, but never put his money where he mouth is…

With news that majority shareholder Andrew Black confirmed his intentions to sell the club and administration ‘a possibility’, despite a takeover being provisionally agreed, Matt Ritchie was sold to promotion rivals Bournemouth for £500,000 ‘behind Di Canio’s back’. This, along with the blocking of three deadline day deals by the Football League lead to Di Canio releasing a statement saying he “doesn’t know how I can continue to work in this environment” and that he was considering his future at Swindon.

Paolo’s Swindon tenure ended over the space of three weeks. We all thought his final game could have been at Crawley, but it wasn’t. Then he remained in the dugout against Colchester and Hartlepool and we thought it could all be ‘resolved’. Support remained strong for the Italian as on the 10 minute mark, the County Ground arose with Paolo Di Canio chants, banners and scarves waving, lighting up the stadium.

With Paolo’s departure, Swindon will be looking for a new manager who can guide them to the Championship; whoever Paolo ends up at next you can guarantee they will have some eventful moments under the helm of the Italian. It’s never boring when Paolo is about.

Follow me on Twitter @BenWills17

Who are Swindon’s transfer targets for 2013?

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Alex Cooke looks at who is in and who is out of Paolo Di Canio’s squad as the January transfer window opens.

This transfer window is going to be significant for Swindon Town. Forget whatever Paolo Di Canio has said about the embargo stopping his shopping, the current Town team is built on loans. The spine of the side has been stiffened with hired muscle and is now heading up the table. Their departure will see the squad significantly weaker – and if Town’s own loanees return, bloated too. So Di Canio has the chance to sign up a few and shift a few this January as he builds his fourth Town team in two years, regardless of whatever Sir William Patey says about the financial situation.

As usual with the Italian, few things are certain – he enjoys flexibility and unpredictability too much to allow for certainty. However, it seems like he will aim to keep what he has – mostly by extending loans. After all he has clearly made an effort to speak positively and publicly about each of his loanees of late – a rarity in itself.

In doing so Di Canio has opened the door, not only because his loanees are known but also because Swindon have spent months getting these players fit and fitting in to Di Canio’s system– so now to look beyond them would meaning starting all over again.

The least surprising, and perhaps, the most important permanent arrival would be Darren Ward – and yet the defender presents the greatest dilemma. For the Millwall centre-back has clearly become a key player, boosting Town’s win ratio from 36 per cent without him to 50 per cent with him. His close marking, excellent positioning and leadership have given the defence much improved shape and discipline. The problem is that Ward is 33 and out of contract in the summer. So finding a shorter-term deal that is attractive to both sides could be problematic. After all the board won’t want to tie Town to a player who despite his diet, must be drawing to the end of his career, and Ward could be looking for the security of a longer deal instead of another half-season loan.

Ward’s arrival should also prevent the need for a replacement for the ineffectual and departed Fede Bessone. While Town seem short on cover at right and left full-back, Di Canio has shown that he is happy to play Alan McCormack and Joe Devera there, despite both looking better in the middle and the lack of width they lend to the attack.

The greatest area of flexibility seems to be in midfield, because John Bostock, Giles Coke and Danny Hollands are all returning home during January. This leaves Di Canio with just Tommy Miller, Alan Navarro, Louis Thompson and Simon Ferry in the middle, and that isn’t much depth for a manager who likes to change his midfield between one that pressurises with pace and vitality, such as against Tranmere, to one which is patient and reactive, such as against Brighton.

The third midfield permutation that Di Canio has tried was in using John Bostock as a deep-lying playmaker. The manager has invested heavily in Bostock, seemingly working with the player on positioning and attitude, asking the question would such an effort be made without some existing agreement that Swindon will re-sign the former Palace midfielder?

The concern shouldn’t be that Tottenham won’t renew – as he is a long way from Villas-Boas’ first team – more than Spurs will look to claw back some of their original investment with a quick cash sale, if one can be found.

If Town can’t keep Bostock, they will need to find a player who can match Bostock’s control and calm – which might be difficult in League One, without offering big wages or a bigger fee – meaning that Di Canio could choose to use that money to add elsewhere and drop his attempt to make the Spurs man shine in his midfield diamond.

If Bostock has added craft, Hollands has add experience and power, and as such should be chased by Swindon as doggedly as he chased Tranmere’s middle two. We already know that Di Canio moved for Hollands in the summer and Charlton manager, Chris Powell hardly ruled out a move when Hollands signed initially, speaking of the loan being of “benefit everyone in the long term”.

Charlton have also moved on too – with a new division and formation, which doesn’t seem to favour Hollands as Swindon’s 442 does. The only question is what did Di Canio mean by the second part of this comment to the Adver?: “I would like to keep him but I know it is hard”.

To balance these arrivals, departures are desirable but most will probably cost Town to see them go. Oliver Risser’s half-season loan at Stevenage is up and with just seven appearances so far, he seems unwanted there too. Similarly Luke Rooney, who managed just two starts when borrowed by Rotherham, is back. At least he could earn himself another loan but he is one year into a two-and-a-half-year deal at Swindon and so could be costly to move on. Another player heading home is midfielder Lee Cox, and unless he wants to become the new Milan Misun, he will need to negotiate a release for his last six months – probably back to Oxford who at least seem keen.

The most obvious departure seems to also come in a package with the strangest arrival – Paul Caddis and Adam Rooney. While it is clear that Caddis is off, the catch seems to be if Birmingham will meet Swindon’s valuation – or as is now likely that non-playing striker Adam Rooney will be part of the deal, as Di Canio hinted in his recent comments.

“I want to keep Rooney, like the contract is, until the end of the season. If they want to buy Caddis then they are two different situations at the moment”, he told the Adver. “If they come back because they don’t have money and ask that we have to negotiate then we will see.” The concern has to be that with Caddis’s deal soon to lapse, Swindon will see little reward for him – especially as any buyer knows there is no way he could return to the County Ground.

Interestingly in the same interview, Di Canio also cited Adam Rooney as the cover for his wide players, rather than solely as a striker. It is notable because while Gary Roberts hasn’t lived up to expectations, Raffa De Vita and Matt Ritchie certainly have. In fact, the pair are leading scorers for Swindon with seven and nine league goals respectively – ahead of all of the loan and permanent strikers.

Again the man brought in to fix this, Chris Martin, has been given lavish praise in the press, and again he has played with promise, but talk of Gary Madine has continued to circulate. That is despite the 22-year-old striker regularly appearing, if not scoring, for Sheffield Wednesday with a mere three goals in 23 appearances. But as we know goals aren’t the only thing to judge a striker on, but Di Canio clearly believes Martin can contribute too.

With his contract at Norwich ending this summer and seemingly little chance of renewal, Martin also needs to play games, and so would most likely be looking again for a temporary move, rather than a permanent one.

It also seems a good fit for Swindon, especially if Paul Benson has, as reported, talked of moving on permanently, then perhaps Di Canio would like both Madine and Martin? It seems possible. As he said: “If we can I would like to bring in a player between January 5 and January 12, and a player that I have in mind since three months ago. We will see.”

It seems unlikely that all of these deals would, and could, come off but clearly Di Canio intends adjust his squad once again, and it might be vital – but it certainly won’t be cheap.

Twelve things we’ve learnt at the County Ground in 2012

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Hasn’t 2012 flown by quickly..!? Ron Smith recalls twelve things that we’ve learnt supporting Swindon Town this year…

1. I should attend less games….

Various commitments have meant I’ve been unable to maintain my full quota of games at the County Ground in 2012.

Working late ensured I couldn’t see Town bounce back from defeat at O#*ord with a 4-0 win over Dagenham & Redbridge. My father in-law’s 60th birthday gave reason to boycott Franchise FC’s visit, but miss a 1-0 win. A bout of the norovirus – which luckily unleashed itself just prior to departing for the County Ground – kept me away from a 4-0 win over AFC Bournemouth. And finally, an office Christmas Party meant I missed the emphatic 5-0 routing of Tranmere Rovers.

I promise to burn my season ticket so you all can enjoy guaranteed home victories in 2013…

2. Paolo likes shopping…

“I like shopping, maybe I have become a woman” were the very true words of Paolo Di Canio earlier this year.

2012 has been a revolving door at the County Ground with 25 players joining on permanent or loan deals and 25 departing.

Many of Di Canio’s original signings including Mattia Lanzano, Lander Gabilondo, Alan Connell, Jonathan Smith, Lukas Magera, Medhi Kerrouche, Alberto Commazi, Lee Cox, Alessandro Cibbocchi, Etienne Esajas, Oliver Risser, Luke Rooney and Paul Benson and haven’t even lasted until the end of the 2011/12 season or have fallen out of favour.

Buy the t-shirt at our shop...

Buy the t-shirt at our shop…

3. An uninjured goalkeeper can be substituted…

The goalkeeping position is no longer exempt from suffering the indignation of a first half substitution, as Wes Foderingham found out at Preston.

Paolo’s decision shook the football world, with the story going national and international and FIFA double checking the Laws of the Game to ensure that cheat Di Canio hadn’t flouted them.

The whole episode again proved the media’s fascination with Di Canio, who are always eager to publish those ‘Nazi Salute’ pictures and reflections on past Paolo ‘detonations’ at every opportunity.

4. The new Wembley Stadium remains a soulless dump until we win there…

Just reward for success in the cups was a run to the final of the JPT to meet Chesterfield at Wembley. 30,000 Swindon fans made the trip only to for the afternoon to unravel in Chesterfield’s favour with a 0-2 defeat, a second successive loss at the new Wembley.

With the pre-match PA drowning out the chanting and soon enough another limp performance failed to ignite the several thousand day trippers, Wembley will remain a soulless dump until we win there.

5. STFC requires a warzone diplomat to control Di Canio

Andrew Black’s decision to replace the much-liked Jeremy Wray with Sir William Patey in October took many by surprise. But this boardroom reshuffle also highlighted the tensions behind the scenes, requiring the expertise of a former British Ambassador to Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan wearing a fetching hat to defuse the situation.

Sir William Patey

6. The world didn’t end on 21st December 2012…

…however we now know what Swindon are really capable of and that Tranmere Rovers probably aren’t going to win League One.

7. “Paolo Di Canio he’s bought a new coat”…

The 20th October and a 1-1 draw with Scunthorpe will live long in our memories for the appearance of Paolo Di Canio sporting a bright red jacket. Gone was the usual green jacket sparking accusations the change in matchday attire was soley responsible for a third successive winless game as hosts.

8. Paolo Di Canio doesn’t like transfer embargoes…

After the win at Bury in early October, Di Canio let slip of his frustrations of being restricted in the transfer market for the first time as Town had been placed under an embargo a few weeks earlier following the Troy Archibald-Henville and James Collins tribunal ruling.

Cue a month of angry and passionate press conferences from Paolo openly criticising the club for their failure to quickly resolve the funding issues as injuries and suspensions mounted. In the end it took an early £500,000 cash injection from Andrew Black to secure the lifting of the embargo, but more money will be needed for Paolo’s bargain hunting in the January sales.

9. We become quite good in the cups against Premier League opponents…

First up was Wigan Athletic who were dispatched in the FA Cup thanks to a fortunate goal from Paul Benson on his home debut…

In late August, it was a breathtaking evening listening to the League Cup Second Round tie with Stoke City unfold on the radio, which was probably finest performance under Di Canio and probably for many years…

Then, Town nearly took Aston Villa to extra time after a brace from the later over-hyped Miles Storey equalised in this League Cup Fourth Round tie.

10. Nobody is safe…

Paul Caddis, a stalwart of 2011/12 and forever bombing up the right wing, couldn’t make it past pre-season and was sent packing to Birmingham City on-loan and expected to make the deal permanent.

The Scot’s departure was the latest in a series of swift changes in personnel at the County Ground and proved nobody is safe, as Alex Cooke explained in the article ‘Paolo Di Canio’s Uncertainty Principle’ back in September, which gets my nod for TheWashbag blog of 2012.

Paul Caddis in the stands

11. Paolo wants to be banned…

After being sent to the stands against Macclesfield, Di Canio took a swipe at the incompetent FA after the 3-0 victory over Crawley.

“Not ironically, I want to thank the Football Association for giving me the opportunity to watch the game from the stands,” he told BBC Wiltshire. I give them permission to ban me for the rest of the season. We will win the league anyway.”

Buy the ‘Ban Me’ t-shirt!

12. We Are The Champions!

Swindon Town have only won three Football League titles and I’m lucky that all three have been during my lifetime.

We all expected promotion from League Two, but I always knew the championship was ours to lose.

The 5-0 drubbing of Port Vale at the County Ground was the perfect way to secure the title, re-live the celebrations…

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR READERS!!!

Images from swindon-town-fc.co.uk

Paolo Di Canio’s Uncertainty Principle

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Wes Foderingham has followed Paul Caddis in falling foul of Paolo Di Canio, but even he won’t be the last, writes Alex Cooke.

First it was Paul Caddis, now it seems to be Wes Foderingham; the list of players who have offended Swindon’s Paolo Di Canio swells week by week. Leon Clarke was the first (and the fastest) to fall from favour but under the Italian there always seems to be something, or someone, to distract us all from the simple pleasure of watching winning football.

You might expect that the experience of seeing a popular captain demoted and dumped, or a good ‘keeper embarrassed and ostracised would be unsettling for Swindon fans, his fellow footballers, and the club, but no. In fact, it has become almost depressingly routine since Paolo Di Canio arrived. Time and again, since Swindon fell under the Italian’s spell, storm has replaced calm.

The unifying factor in all this disorder is Di Canio. The man seems to thrive in a state of permanent change or flux. He actually seems to cultivate and court it – both as a player and a manager. With his underdog obsession, cultivated in the slums of Rome and reinforced by every brush with authority since, he has become almost the anti-Saint Francis of Assisi: where there was harmony, he brings discord.

Last season provided one example after another: once Clarke was sent away, the squad united and results improve – then top scorer, Medhi Kerrouche was exiled. When the wins mounted during the cold winter, Di Canio publicly claimed that referees and the FA were conspiring against him, even taunting them to ban him. When the championship felt like it was finally in Swindon’s hands, swathes of the side had to be dropped for a night out that went on too long, and again the team struggled. Now, as the new season unfolds, Paul Caddis has added weight but lost his place and his armband, and the local media were temporarily sent to Sibera for mentioning it.

This pursuit of uncertainty seems to be part of a scheme by Di Canio to ensure his unassailable position as the strong man, the leader, a champion. To do so he creates enemies, real and imagined, internal and external, to bond his sides together and shape his players’ thinking.

But this procession of crises and threats not only gives Di Canio inspiration, they also give him license. And as any ruler knows claiming you live in tough times allow you to use tough measures – and Di Canio’s autobiography is littered with justifications: social class, geography, jealousy, conspiracy and racism. In Paolo’s mildly paranoid world of hidden Roma fans, deceitful chairmen and lazy players, his means are always justified.  Without trying to bring politics into it, you could almost see the Roman styling himself as Machiavelli’s The Prince.

There are as many examples of discord dotted throughout Di Canio’s playing career as his managerial one. For a man who preaches loyalty his time was iterant, at its peak taking in five clubs in just nine years. Granted, circumstances can cause players to move on quickly but he seemed to have been hell-bent on driving himself through conflict. He fell out with his home club, Lazio, argued his way out of Juventus, punched his way out of AC Milan, sulked his way out of Celtic and hit Ron Atkinson at Wednesday before falling out with pretty much a whole country with an officious shove. Few of these fights seemed necessary – two were over substitutions in pre or post-season friendlies and many others were over money – but Di Canio was always willing to embrace the ‘change’ of being slapped on the transfer list.

And yet, here is Di Canio the manager, the arch disciple of discipline: a man who would have little truck with his behaviour as a player. A clue to this conversion can be found in his autobiography. For while Di Canio once tried to ‘land one’ on former England boss Fabio Cappello, that man, his methods and his Milan squad have become his model.

“The club actively encouraged competition between the players,” he wrote of his time at AC Milan. “You were given the feeling that nobody was sacred, that if you were good enough, you would get your chance. In that sense, Fabio Capello, the manager was brilliant. He knew how to motivate us, how to pit us against each other in a healthy way. This does not mean I liked him, because I didn’t. It just meant that he was a winner and a successful manager.”

And while Di Canio continues to build a vast squad, he hasn’t had the riches that Capello had at the Giuseppe Meazza. There each player’s place could be taken by not just one international, but two. At Swindon, Di Canio has tried to replicate this competition for places, and this rivalry: he chops and changes, he drops and picks again. Of course, he also seems to have other methods for keeping the squad on their toes when a player’s position isn’t under threat, such as with Caddis and Foderingham, when removing the captain’s armband, subbing them, or selling them just seems to be acceptable.

For Di Canio that ruthlessness is vital: “I have come to realise that, with a few very rare exceptions, to be a successful manager you need to be mean, tough and often a little bit unfair.” While this thought struck him as a player, his comments on those managers he played for seems unchanged. While he fell out with numerous hardmen (Luciano Moggi and Capello) he has less respect for the weakness he saw in David Pleat or Danny Wilson in England. Instead Di Canio permanently poses as the underdog and the outsider. He even favours the almost Jose Mourinho-like position of shielding his players from the press and pressure – mainly through exposing himself. Fortunately so far this has involved copying Louis Van Gaal’s strategy at Bayern Munich of showing the team how big his balls are, literally.

The problem to come could be that so far the Swindon board have been ‘enablers’; they have backed him in every confrontation, selling the players he casts aside, taking any financial hits his spats cause. When Di Canio’s man-management has failed, they’ve not forced him to cope, to learn, to coach his underperforming player – they have acquiesced. Other boards, and Swindon’s when results aren’t so positive, will surely be less forgiving.

In the Caddis case, regardless of the details of the falling out - and whatever anyone says they remain unknown – no-one seems to have tried to stop the rift widening daily. Instead the press were blamed for talking to the player at all. So far only one player who has been found to be not up to scratch has survived – and he is the other man to lose the armband: Oliver Risser. And while he has now gone on loan, Risser certainly comes across as a man who is far more pliant and grateful to Di Canio than almost any other player.

With Wes Foderingham seemingly having taken a similar path to Risser in admitting that Di Canio was right all along, the crisis seems to have been averted, for now. But the question remains, how long has the crisis been averted for, and who will be next to fall out with the gaffer? Because this is Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon and stability is the enemy here.

Vic Morgan Blog: Season’s started lets get moaning….

Vic Morgan 9

BBC Devon’s Vic Morgan is back for 2012/13, continuing his weekly blog – telling you what he really thinks – only here on The Washbag.

Wow. Season’s started. Plenty of reason to moan about being a Swindon Town fan. After all, the club has just won a championship, brought in shed loads of new players, made it through to round two of a major cup competition, and hasn’t conceded a goal in three competitive fixtures.

I was certainly unhappy about the way we played Crawley off the pitch on Tuesday. I’d much rather we’d struggled and lost, that would have made me much happier. After all what’s this with being fourth in League One ? Unbeaten and flying in home games.

I’ve been accused this week of towing the party line, and being boring as my team does well. True I haven’t expressed a strong feeling about the Paul Caddis affair unlike many who’ve had a go on the keyboards of various forums, I don’t know the full story. Until I do, I can’t offer a judgement.

It seems to be the way of things these days that there’s right and wrong. People decide on issues before they know the facts.

There is no greater admirer of Caddis than me. Last season he was magnificent. I said so many times. But, I don’t know what’s gone on behind the closed doors of the County Ground. That’s not towing the party line, that’s sitting back and trying to find out. I’ve criticised the club many times in the past when I’ve felt it justified. If anyone can give me a definitive answer on the Caddis story, then maybe I will again.

At the moment though, all I see from a distance in Devon is a team on the up. It may all go horribly wrong, and then we can all bleat endlessly on about the glory days when we where fourth in League One, just won a championship, made it through to round two of a cup competition, and hadn’t conceded a goal in three games of a new season.

Gosh, I can’t wait for the MK Dons game on Saturday so I can again moan endlessly about the wonderful playing surface and sparkling football.

All I saw on Tuesday night was Swindon fans with smiles on their faces. Obviously they were the odd few who would. like me seemingly put up with any old rubbish. Sometimes I wonder what people want. Can’t wait for the slagging after this, bring it on.

To other matters, and something else I’m annoyed about. Drums in football grounds.

Don’t know about you, but that racket on Tuesday from the Crawley drummer drove me to distraction. I can’t see why they’re allowed to bring them in. Just imagine if you were sitting in front of the bleep bleep thing. I think I may be escorted out for doing something physically impossible with the instrument.

I’ve always hated drum solos. Whenever they occur at a gig, I’m out to the bar. I’ve sat through some which have lasted 45 minutes or more…just not for me. So why in the days when there are so many restrictions at grounds, tops taken off plastic bottles etc, do we have that infernal noise. Please make it STOP.

So to the weekend and MK. Its a massive test, and will give us a real indication of where we are in the scheme of things. Personally, I’d be delighted with top ten this season. The club has obviously set its sights on promotion. Something else to moan about I guess.

Keep smiling…..

Keep it loud, keep it proud, keep it SWINDON

Vic

2012/13 Season: Hopes & Expectations – Neil Evans

Neil Evans

Throughout this week our writers reveal their hopes and expectations for Swindon Town in League One during 2012/13. Next up, Neil Evans…

Hopes and Expectations: There’s a a lot to optimistic about in SN1 as another season dawns. An existing squad of good players has been complemented by some excellent summer signings, beefing up the midfield and attack in particular. We’ve been tipped to do well by many and I see no reason why we can’t be competitive and have a good tilt at the play-offs.

The most recent news regarding Paul Caddis’ situation is most concerning; something has obviously happened behind the scenes and we may well be saying a fond farewell to our former skipper unless some compromise can be reached. If this does happen, we will need more cover before the window snaps-shut in a couple of weeks or so.

Signing of the Summer: Many good new acquisitions but for me, Andy Williams work rate and skills offer us something a little different up front. Hopefully the 5 shots against the woodwork in pre-season means all his bad luck is out of the way too!

Who will be the key player for STFC in 2012/13 and why? So many questions to be answered but we will see whether Matt Ritchie can sustain his form from last season. My concern is that he does not use his right foot nearly often enough. Cutting inside with an overlapping Caddis might well fool L2 defences but with Caddis’ future in doubt, and PDC’s penchant for inside-out wingers, Matt will need to avoid becoming predictable in order to maintain his effectiveness.

STFC Final Position: A very respectable 5th

Promotion: Sheffield Utd and PNE (hopefully us in the playoffs)

Relegation: Yeovil, Bury, Stevenage and Oldham

Follow @Swinfan69 on Twitter

Catching up on the ‘Retained List’, Caddis, McCormick and the rest…

Lyme Regis and Amelie's first visit to the the beach 1

You may have noticed we’ve been a bit quiet responding to the latest Swindon Town news recently, Ron Smith has been on holiday…

A week without the mod-cons in rural Dorset, in an isolated place where the only signal known to locals is morse, has undoubtedly been the relaxing break that me and the young family sorely needed.

The only thing ‘football’ about the week was finding out our nearby market town of Bridport was where the goal nets of the ’66 World Cup Final were made.

Having returned to civilisation – although many outside Swindon would dispute that – the unexpectedly busy flow of post-season news while I was away yielded several key nuggets. So I might have well have my say a little later than usual…

Lyme Regis and Amelie’s first visit to the beach

First we had the ‘Retained List’. This was presented almost as if football had returned to the feudal hierarchy days of retain-and-transfer pre-1963. Although today there’s no certainty you can keep those you want to retain.

Town announced they sought to retain the services of two out of contract players – Billy Bodin and Nathan Thompson – and have shown the door to Phil Smith, Mark Scott, Callum Kennedy and Lander Gabilondo.

Smith surely has more sense than to stay around and warm Foderingham’s gloves. Instead Phil deserves to find the first team action elsewhere at this late stage in his career. Fellow ‘keeper Mark Scott departs having never been allowed to prove himself, save for superb performances for Supermarine 18 months ago in their FA Cup run. Long serving left back Kennedy departs, which is fine by me considering that he blocked me on Twitter several months ago for no apparent reason. Gabilondo leaves – as expected – proving he’s another of Paolo’s failed foreign imports, although one who fortunately joined on a single year deal.

I’d be surprised if either Thompson or Bodin refuse to sign new deals given their rise through the youth ranks. However Bodin’s stock has risen in recent months after excellent loan spells with Torquay and Crewe, leading to a turned-down full international call up. So unless he knows guaranteed first team action awaits at SN1 they’ll be suitors waiting to pounce.

Next up we had the club taking out their option to extend Paul Caddis’ deal until June 2014. The qualifications for this decision are obvious, however as it was likely Simon Ferry joined on similar terms in the summer of 2010, the lack of a similar extension highlights Ferry remains yet to convince his third manager that his long term future is worth securing.

True to form more controversy follows Town around every corner. Midweek news emerged that convicted drink drive killer ‘keeper Luke McCormick has long been training with Town on day release and is set to join on trial in July. Cue the typical posturing from some supporters, treating football as a special case and all too quick to write off anyone with a criminal conviction from earning a living again. Its simple, I don’t like the situation anymore than you, however he’s been convicted, been through the justice system and served his time so move on – even how heinous the crime, and what a horrendous tragedy he was responsible for. What next, should we call for any Town fan with a criminal conviction to be banned from entering the ground..?

Paolo Di Canio has finally returned Alex Cooke’s copy of Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson. Not content with plans ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘D’ for 2012/13, the Italian has vowed to add to the alphabet to provide sufficient options to tackle the many Guardiolas, Bielsas and Sacchis in opposition dugouts next season. Also I must take this opportunity to apologise for us exposing Town’s only tactic as the season progressed, leaving Di Canio with no choice but to seek alternatives. At least Alex will have plenty to get his teeth into…

Could our first signing be Yeovil striker Andy Williams? After scoring enough to secure the Glovers’ League One status he’s going to depart ‘Bosman style’. Like many Town fans I’ve also not be paying enough attention to League One highlights reel on the woeful Football League Show so, for now, I’ll also fit into the “never heard of him so he’s probably crap” category.

Oh wait! Yet another flop is on his way. Etienne Esajas departs to free up much needed wages for Di Canio’s expected summer signing spree. If only Mattia Lanzano would follow suit and learn the phrase ‘mutual consent’…

This summer promises to be as busy, if not busier, than the last. That’ll keep me occupied…

Going Up! 2011/12 – A Season of Changes

2011-12 Champions

You’ve read many great factual reviews of the season, Alex Cooke takes a more personal view of 2011-12 and how it has changed how he watches Swindon.

2011-12 was a season played in the full glare of a nation’s attention. The media with their magpie-attention span were periodically fascinated because of who stalked the touchline, rival football fans saw Swindon in HD through Town’s many cup success and, for almost the first time, I watched the majority of the matches free from the blurring effects of beer due to the arrival of my second daughter. I also starting writing for The Washbag. 2011-12 turned out to be a bit of a revelation, for all of us.

It was a season in which everyone had an opinion on how Swindon, and Paolo Di Canio in particular, would do. Fortunately Jeremy Wray got his pre-season prediction closer than anyone else’s though.

“…I can’t wait for Paolo to get here and get started,” the interim chairman said before Di Canio’s media-unveiling. “When you see the man’s passion and love for the game, you will see why he stood out above the other candidates – he’s infectious. He’s already shown such pride and attention to detail, and it’s an exciting time for Swindon Town.”

Despite the misgivings of many in the town, and of myself, Wray was unerringly accurate, even though it went against the prevailing views of the pundits and the papers. After all the perceived wisdom is that you need a big side to win games in basement football – and bar Aden Flint, Paul Benson, Oliver Risser, Jon Smith and Joe Devera most of the Swindon’s squad is under six foot. The perceived wisdom is that you need a talismanic central striker – and yet Alan Connell and Benson are Swindon’s top scorers with just 11 league goals but 18 other players have weighed in with goals across the season. Again, the perceived wisdom is that you need experience of the fight – but only Benson, Connell and Risser and Alessandro Chibocchi were approaching, or past the age of 30.

Then there was the issue of the manager – too inexperienced, too unstable, too flighty said the pundits– and sometimes they were right: signing Ibrahim Atiku and Mattia Lanzano, his sending off against Rotherham, Leon Clarke and both games against Oxford showed a man liable to ludicrous displays of emotional and tactical naivety. But what we also saw fairly quickly was his abilities as a leader, if not a recruiter of men: Raffa De Vita was converted from lightweight striker to goal-scoring wide midfielder, Alan McCormack turned from impulsive midfielder to calming centre back and Paul Caddis went from early-season head-down runner into marauding full-back. It was real proof that Di Canio and his technical team could really coach a side and change where, and how, individuals played.

While my personal season took a short break in mid-October for the birth of child number two, Town had begun to change the national newspaper’s narrative and the columnists’ minds. The early defeats dried up and wins began to become almost the norm, but their attention was really grabbed by the FA Cup. While I had to stop watching the wonderful win against Huddersfield just after Raffa De Vita had stroked home Simon Ferry’s cutback to take the littlest one to hospital, no one still believed you couldn’t play a passing game and win in the lower leagues. It was a week before my family were all once again safely back home and I finally saw just how wonderful Town’s victory over the Terriers was, but it was worth the wait. The wonderful football played in the win over Wigan confirmed many in that opinion. I wasn’t there either but again a DVD allowed me to I count passes and to watch players who most don’t normally watch, and those who we can’t take our eyes off.

As the year turned the side became more settled and more confident. The homes matches I saw became almost mundane as teams were brushed aside, not through tactical innovation such as inverted wingers but simply though Town having the better, fitter players. However, domestic duties did force me to miss many of the night games – including some against the best teams in the division, such as Shrewsbury and Torquay which certainly sounded more tougher on the radio.

January’s addition of Luke Rooney brought excitement and flair but it was Benson who added the final piece – the cutting edge – with mobility, ability and determination. The only shame was that he was forced to play as linkman and finisher due to the poor quality of the strikers signed to go with him: Jonathan Tehoue and Ronan Murray. Again, questions had to be asked about Di Canio’s player recruitment.

One aspect which can’t be doubted in this the season has been the board of Swindon Town’s support for Di Canio. While most recent Town bosses asked to pick the team up after relegation have done so with background ‘financial engineering’ or at least boardroom disharmony and disruption, Di Canio has been backed, supported, paid and, if rumours are true, even protected throughout. Others outside the club might have doubted, and maybe even wobbled as the defeats mounted, but the boards support has been unwavering and so very unusual.

In a season in which victories came so regularly, defeats actually became the key points for analysis. After all something must have gone wrong? Chesterfield at Wembley fits that model exactly: Swindon expected to win, Di Canio expected to win, hence attacking the Spireites as if Town were the team from the higher league. Instead Chesterfield played intelligent cup football, waiting for the breaks, keeping their positions and then butchering Swindon on the break once Town’s plan A failed. There was no shame in the defeat, just a little hubris and a sign that Di Canio still had something to learn about handling good teams who weren’t playing as if they expecting to roll over Swindon – as Wigan, Huddersfield and Leicester had.

The only real upset in the final weeks of the season was the gradual decline in the performances once promotion was in sight. Some will point to the accusations of nights out but Di Canio showed his new maturity by dealing with it responsibility and, most importantly of all, equally. Largely Town became less potent due to disruption on the right-hand side of the team. Injuries to Matt Ritchie and Paul Caddis robbed Swindon of much of their forward drive but also of their creativity as it Caddis had become Swindon’s best cross-field passer, opening up the left flank for Rooney or Lee Holmes to attack to the full-back.

But that is the subject for another blog, when I can finally convince one of my children that watching the JPT DVD and counting every pass that Swindon’s captain is a good way to spend a sober Saturday afternoon. That is until 2012-13 begins anyway.

View the STFC squad, table, fixtures and results for the 2011/12 season on swindon-town-fc.co.uk

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